After years of physical and mental abuse, Tommy Chadwick finally finds the strength to leave Colin, his tormentor. But Tommy soon finds that escaping his violent boyfriend was only the first step on his path to recovery.
Now he must overcome feelings of worthlessness in order to rebuild his battered self-esteem.
Tommy’s lack of self-confidence prevents him from going out... at first, but then has him ricocheting from one man to another, desperately trying to please them in his search for love and acceptance.
After being rejected on New Year’s Eve, and then beaten after leaving the gay bar, he agrees to accompany his best friend, Sarah, to a martial arts club. There Tommy meets Marcus, a strong older man, who at first becomes his friend, introducing Tommy to new interests, and later, tentatively asks him on a date.
Will Marcus be the man to help Tommy put his past behind him and fall in love for real?
Shane rang me the next day after work, and my heart leapt when his name came up on my phone. I was in the lounge talking to Sarah, and I jogged upstairs to my room as I answered the call. I told myself he couldn’t wait until Saturday and wanted to speak to me in the meantime.
“Hi, Shane,” I said brightly.
“Hi.” He cleared his throat. “About Saturday....”
“Yes?” I wondered if the arrangement for the weekend was to change.
“It’s not gonna happen. I’m sorry.”
“Oh!” I felt the smile slip from my face, and I waited for him to elaborate.
“I’ve got a girlfriend. She’s been working in Spain for a few weeks, and I didn’t think she was coming back until next month, but she turned up this morning. Sorry.”
“Girlfriend?” I echoed, stunned.
“Yeah, I’m bi.”
“I thought you said you broke up with someone recently.”
“Well, she’s been away a long time, and we’d had a row when I said that.” I could picture him shrugging as he spoke.
“Oh. Okay. No problem.” I did my best to sound as if I didn’t care, while my heart plummeted into my shoes and tears prickled at the back of my eyes. When I ended the call, I reminded myself about everything that had been wrong in the very brief relationship. He didn’t talk, we had nothing in common, and he was inconsiderate in bed. But I’d liked him, far too much, and it fucking hurt that he had a girlfriend I didn’t know about. It hurt that he’d probably only been using me to fill in the time until she came back.
I curled up on my bed and wrapped my arms around myself. I wouldn’t let myself cry—I’d done far too much of that over Colin—but my throat hurt with the effort of not giving in to it, and my jaw ached from grinding my teeth. I lost track of time as I lay there feeling sorry for myself and wondering if I should have stayed with Gary after all.
“Tommy?” Sarah called softly from the doorway and waited.
“Yeah.” I rolled onto my back and forced a smile onto my face.
“What’s wrong, hun?” She closed the door and came to sit on the edge of my bed. My smile apparently hadn’t been very convincing, and I let it slip away.
“Nothing, I’m okay.”
“You were all excited when your phone rang, and now you look like a puppy that’s been kicked.”
“Thanks.” I grimaced and tried to laugh it off.
“Is it that bloke you’ve been seeing?”
“Shane. I’m not seeing him anymore. He’s got a girlfriend,” I blurted out. My eyes smarted again, and I blinked.
“I’m sorry.” Sarah rested her hand on my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “But you’d only seen him a couple of times, hadn’t you?”
“Yeah, well, I’m a prick. We didn’t even have much in common. Less than me and Gary. But somehow I suppose I....” I sniffed miserably and sat up. “I really liked him.”
“Oh, Tommy.” Sarah slid her arms around me to give me a cuddle, and I sagged against her. I felt pathetic. I couldn’t say I was heartbroken over someone I’d had sex with twice, but I felt the sharp pain of rejection all over again, and the fragile confidence I’d built up since I left Colin began to crumble. Shane slipped from my mind, and I thought of a situation I’d been in with Colin more times than I could count.
“Get your shit packed and get out of here, Tommy.” Colin sneered at me from the couch. “You’re a pathetic waste of space and I’m sick of the sight of you.”
“You seriously want me to leave? Who’s going to pay the bills, then?” I asked.
“I’ll have no trouble getting a new flat mate. I don’t know why I haven’t done this sooner. There are plenty of cute boys out there. I don’t know why I stuck with the ugly little slut you are for so long.”
“Fine. I’ll go.” I turned away from him as hot tears spilled down my cheeks. He didn’t want me, didn’t care about me. I felt lost and crushed and relieved all at the same time. Maybe this time he’d really let me go.
I went into the bedroom and found my rucksack. I began packing my clothes first, while I sobbed and snuffled, and repeatedly wiped my eyes and nose on my sleeves. It was just after our first anniversary. He’d given me the ring and told me how much he loved me, how special I was to him, and how things would be perfect between us from now on. I’d almost forgotten all the times he’d hurt me, and even though I didn’t like the ring, I’d been delighted to receive it. It made me believe he really did love me. The next couple of days had been perfect—until now. I could barely remember what had started it—something to do with him not liking my suggestion we go out somewhere. We spent our whole lives cooped up in the flat except for me going to work and him going fishing with Gary. I’d thought we could do something nice together, but he could only see that I wanted to get out so I could look at other men or get attention from them.
I crammed the last few items into my rucksack and set it aside. I looked up to find Colin standing in the doorway, watching me.
“I’m sorry, babe,” he said. “I didn’t mean any of it. You know how jealous I get. I love you so much, and I want to keep you all to myself.”
“So why did you tell me to leave?” I said in a small voice.
“I wasn’t thinking straight. I don’t want you to leave. I never want you to leave.” He came to me and took my hands. He stroked his thumb over the ring I wore. “This means we’re together forever. I’m never gonna let you go, Tommy. I promise.” He began kissing my face all over, tasting my tears. “Forgive me. Come on. You know I love you.”
The day had ended with him fucking me on the floor from behind, so hard he’d almost smashed my head into the wall. I’d been so sore afterward, I could barely sit down without yelping.
“Tommy, are you sure this is just about Shane?” Sarah was stroking my hair, and I realized I’d wept all over her blouse and left a wet patch on her shoulder. I pulled away and rubbed my hands over my face.
“Sorry. Uh... yeah, I’m just being stupid. I thought things were going well. Clearly I was wrong.”
“Are you sure that’s all? You seem so upset.”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You know, I don’t get why you broke up with Gary. He seemed really nice.” Sarah frowned in puzzlement. “He treated you well, didn’t he?”
“Yes, but we had nothing in common. We never did anything except... never mind.” I laughed and felt my face heat up. “I’m fine, really.”
I was fine. I moped for two days and then went out to La Rues again. I met Paul, whom I dated for two weeks. He was ginger and freckled, and I wasn’t really attracted to him, but he was keen on me and he made me feel better. My confidence rose again, and I forgot about Shane. I felt good and I began to feel I could get anyone I wanted.
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Louise Lyons comes from a family of writers. Her mother has a number of poems published in poetry anthologies, her aunt wrote poems for the church, and her grandmother sparked her inspiration with tales of fantasy. Louise first ventured into writing short stories at the grand old age of 8, mostly about little girls and ponies. She branched into romance in her teens, and MM romance a few years later, but none of her work saw the light of day until she discovered FanFiction in her late 20s.
Posting stories based on some of her favorite movies, provoked a surprisingly positive response from readers. This gave Louise the confidence to submit some of her work to publishers, and made her take her writing “hobby” more seriously.
Louise lives in the UK, about an hour north of London, with a mad Dobermann, and a collection of tropical fish and tarantulas. She works in the insurance industry by day, and spends every spare minute writing. She is a keen horse-rider, and loves to run long-distance. Some of her best writing inspiration comes to her, when her feet are pounding the open road. She often races into the house afterward, and grabs pen and paper to make notes.
Louise has always been a bit of a tomboy, and one of her other great loves is cars and motorcycles. Her car and bike are her pride and joy, and she loves to exhibit the car at shows, and take off for long days out on the bike, with no one for company but herself.
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